Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Unhealthy Habits

There are two things that I have been doing for as long as I can remember: music and writing. Just as my parents have pictures of me at my first-grade talent show, they have my stories from elementary school. The other day, I was talking to a friend about teaching children music and how it's the best and worst thing a child can go through at times. That really reminded me of writing, so I decided to write about that tonight.

Anyone who knows me well is aware of my two fetishes. I'm the daughter of a woman in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a businessman who used to be in a band but now just jams on weekends with his acoustic guitar. I started violin when I was 3, joined a singing group called Showbiz Kids not much later, did community musicals as soon as I could learn how to sing harmony at the age of 6. My parents were extremely supportive of how much I loved music. As soon as I moved to a new place, we would find me a new teacher and find a new orchestra for me to participate in. We'd also usually get involved in whatever theater group was around there. When I won a year of free piano lessons in a raffle at the age of 7, my parents let me continue taking lessons until I was almost 13 and we couldn't afford both sets of lessons. They let me join everything from Glee Club to Mixed Chorus, String Orchestra to Full Orchestra. The hands-down most incredible summer of my life was when I was accepted to the Interlochen Arts Camp and spent the entire vacation rehearsing several hours a day, performing once a week and making immense progress in my musicianship. In that summer, I played everything from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Waltz to the Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet Suite, from Holst's Jupiter to the Tchaikovsky 6th Symphony's final movement. I developed a vibrato and pushed myself harder than I had ever thought possible.

On the other hand, I have some utterly miserable memories of music. It's a masochist's art, really. Not just the working for years before you can even sound halfway-decent. Not just the 7 a.m. Saturday rehearsals I had downtown when in the New England Conservatory Youth Strings. I look back at my life and I wonder what kind of sick freak I was. When I was 9, I accepted an invitation to tour with my old orchestra in Taiwan and had to have 21 pieces memorized and performance-ready in three weeks. The following summer, I was taught at Bay State String Camp by a man who struck me whenever I did something wrong. For the last half of that week, I kept myself going by crying whenever I got home from rehearsals, but I kept going. I have done countless auditions for orchestras. At Interlochen, once you were in the orchestra, you had to compete for your seat each week. As a singer, I was part of groups that sometimes did several concerts in a day. My favorite audition experience has to be when I was trying out a new instrument and was scheduled for my two New England Conservatory Youth Division placement auditions on the same night. I finished playing the Bach Double Violin Concerto for the camcorder and microphone, then walked out and swapped my violin for a viola so I could go back in and do the Telemann G Major Concerto. As an instrumentalist, I have done all of this to myself when it wasn't expected of me. That's because my mom thoughtfully never told me until I was 13 that I had bilateral vestibular syndrome and wasn't expected to be able to ever play a musical instrument because my brain doesn't get impulses to my muscles very well. By the time I was aware that there was a reason that I had to work harder than everyone else to sound good, I was used to it.

So, comparatively, writing is a piece of cake. Nothing physical holds me back from typing. I love writing and it comes easily to me at times. In high school, I remember reading a story I'd written and finding that I'd taken Greek class notes in the margins of that story instead of the other way around. My English teacher from 9th grade wrote me the letter of recommendation that got me into college and said that I was the best writer she'd ever taught. BYU looked at that recommendation from the person who was by then the head of the Harvard English Department and decided I was good enough for them, 3.2 GPA and all. On the other hand, that teacher is also the one who made me cry in public by telling me in a class discussion that I would never have the grasp of literature to understand "A Raisin in the Sun." Last summer, I was in a very paralyzing depression because writing made me depressed and that was one of the few things that could keep me from severe depression. I have been immensely frustrated and cried and cursed at my computer and people at times while writing this book.

So I suppose that everything, to a certain extent, can be a wonderful thing that makes us miserable or an unhealthy habit that makes all the difference.

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